ended on its 20th day Wednesday morning with Gov. Mark Dayton's signing of a dozen budget bills that the House and Senate passed overnight in a marathon, 12-hour special session.
At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dayton signed into law all 12 budget bills passed in the middle of the night Wednesday by the Minnesota House and Senate. Dayton’s signatures ended the shutdown of Minnesota government—at 20 days, it was the longest continuous shutdown of any state government in United States history.
Insults were hurled. Accusations were made. Pleas were ignored. But in the end, the people’s business was finished.
It took less than an hour’s work for Minnesota lawmakers, who reconvened Tuesday afternoon, to pass five bills—and each legislative body ended up passing 12 bills between 3 p.m Tuesday and 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Knuth: 'I vote no'
Rep. Kate Knuth, a DFLer who represents a slice of southeastern Fridley, logged her displeasure with the session's breakneck pace and lack of public input via Twitter, starting with this message: "first budget bill in special session. Transportation bill. abt 10 minutes of debate." Then came:
6:46 p.m. Tuesday: "Trying to figure out how the public has any chance to understand what these bills actually do."
9:48 p.m. Tuesday: "Appropriation bonds being used to solve #MNbudget have never been used in MN. Future generations will pay for today's spending. I vote no."
2:50 a.m. Wednesday: "MN House passed K-12 bill, nearly 40% of budget, an hour after it was posted online, at 2:30 am. Shifts school funding 40%."
Listed below are the bills and the votes that passed them:
Bonding bill: 53-11
K-12 Education: 36-28
State Government bill: 40-24
Health and Human Services bill: 37-27
Pensions bill: 61-3
Taxes bill: 37-27
Judiciary/Public Safety bill: 57-7
Environment bill: 43-22
Jobs and Economic Growth bill: 42-23
Transportation bill: 38-27
Higher education bill: 35-30
Legacy bill: 65-0
Minnesota House of Representatives
State Government bill: 81-47
K-12 Education bill: 71-56
Health and Human Services bill: 71-57
Pensions bill: 115-12
Bonding bill: 112-17
Legacy bill: 98-30
Taxes bill: 71-57
Transportation bill: 71-56
Higher education bill: 71-57
Judiciary/Public Safety bill: 77-51
Environment bill: 71-57
Jobs and Economic Growth bill: 76-50
How It Began
The House and Senate took their seats in the Legislature at around 3 p.m. Tuesday, opened the special session, observed a moment of silence for the late Sen. Linda Scheid (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and then recessed for more than three hours.
When they reconvened at around 7 p.m., they got to work. Within an hour, the Senate had passed six bills; the House had passed five. The Legislature then went into recess again; lawmakers were back at their desks later in the evening.
The session, with often acrimonious debate, ended after 3 a.m. Wednesday with all bills passed.
The bigger budget bills were the session's most complex and contentious pieces of legislation, including health and human services, taxes, K-12 education, bonding, pension and state government.
Earlier: 'Be Ready'
The overarching message to Minnesotans is “Be ready.” That came from Gov. Mark Dayton’s chief of staff, Tina Smith, and Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner Jim Schowalter.
Smith and Schowalter sounded cautious optimism in a conference call with media on Tuesday afternoon.
“There are a lot of assumptions right now,” Schowalter said. “But it is important to remind everyone that normal operations will not resume immediately. The bills must pass both bodies and then be signed into law by the governor.”
Schowalter said that while the timing and enactment of the bills was still uncertain, after Dayton signs them, money will become available to the respective agencies.
It’s “unlikely,” Smith said, that state workers would go back to their jobs on Wednesday, noting the logistics of passing the legislation and contacting workers. Each agency will have its own process for resuming operations, and state employees will be given 24 hours notice to return to work, Schowalter explained.
Smith and Schowalter concluded the call by encouraging Minnesotans to check out the Be Ready website, created by the state to deliver real-time information.
“We are moving forward with two things right now: urgency and common sense,” Smith said.
“The goal,” Smith reiterated, “is to restart the government as quickly as we can and get Minnesotans back to work.”